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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > Standard Operating Procedures for Green and Sustainable Business Operations > Recycling Business Waste Into Resources

Recyling Grows to New Levels - Composting & Exchanges

Recycling is a system that solves several problems with several solutions. Zero waste is a state of mind!

Find green business solutions

Why composting is a "zero waste" concept

Technology exists, but a lot of education still needs to be done

Zero Waste

Corporations are experimenting with zero waste. Cities are testing it. At eight of Honda's North American plants, they are recycling so effectively that the factories have eliminated their trash dumpsters. Reduction, reclamation and recycling combine to make this possible. Zero waste is an attitude shift..and a new definition of terms in our everyday language. Nothing is waste in nature. Everything is used for something else ... so it is a natural resource.

Food Waste is a Biggie!

Food waste, which the EPA says accounts for about 13% of total trash nationally — and much more when recyclables are factored out of the total — is viewed as the next big frontier of resources management.

When table and kitchen scraps go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. AND...When sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose.

If recycled with composting, however, food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product. That means healthier soil and cleaner air ... for healthier communities and lower rates of asthma.

Zero Waste Zones in Cities

Green Foodservice Alliance, a division of the Georgia Restaurant Association, has been adding restaurants in Atlanta to its "zero-waste zones." And small companies are springing up to meet the growth in demand from restaurants for recycling and compost haulers.


Customers have to be be given a system and then taught to think about the destination of every throwaway if the zero-waste philosophy is to succeed, environmental officials say.

Santa Monica, CA bans the use of polystyrene foam containers, but that some citizens had unwittingly put the plant-based alternatives into cans for recycling, where they melt and gum up the recycling sorting machinery. Pioneers in recycling are asking manufacturers to mark some biodegradable items with a brown or green stripe...and to help consumers and end users learn the new strategies for these new materials.

Hauling Services

Organic composting facilities are usually large "small businesses" that must meet strict air and water quality regulations, especially in California. But the hardest part of participating in the a city's zero-waste-zone program isn't always training a restaurant staff to recycle proplerly... but finding reliable haulers. And that's an opportunity for micro "small business" entrepreneurs.

Packaging for Zero Waste

Packaging is also quickly evolving as part of the zero-waste movement. Bioplastics like forks that melt when heated are being adopted at Yellowstone National Park. These new materials are made from plant materials like cornstarch that mimic plastic. These new eating utensils, plates and cups are manufactured to be compostable. Now we just need to buy them, use them and recyle them responsibly.

Hold Sorting Parties

Learning about the new systems and changing our behavior is still a challenge in a busy, complicated, urbanized lifestyle. We need creative strategies at the grassroots level to shift our thinking, support community systems for zero waste, and educate our entire community about these new technological constraints. How about hosting a "sorting party" at a restaurant, a nonprofit, a home, or your business?

It's cheap. Somewhat messy...but that will make it memorable.

Dump the trash onto a large tarp...and methodically and with great humor and bits of technical information... sort each item into a proper recycling barrel.

Be sure to document each type of recycled content with a photograph that can be displayed prominently in the snack room, on Flickr, and on a blog about community recycling.

Experience makes learning memorable...and memorable experience creates changed systems. Success! P>

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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